Recently a friend of mine asked some questions about primer and after giving them some thought thought, everyone needs to hear these.
His questions elicited responses that I did not cover in my original Primer on Primer. The answers were more specific and he found them more helpful than my original article, so I thought I would share the questions and answers here. I grouped some of the questions together because the answers are related.
Q: I heard that humidity is a factor to consider with spray primers. What is the highest humidity one can reasonably spray primer in? How about temperature? What is your experience with various brands?
A: The highest humidity depends on the primer. Armoury Primer is the pickiest and requires a desert like desiccated atmosphere to go on smooth. GW is good up to about 65% relative humidity, as is Krylon. Duplicolor Sandable Primer is automotive primer and I have used it up to 75% relative humidity and it is the high humidity and heat champion. I have also had good luck with Tamiya Fine Surface Primer in higher humidity. You typically want humidity less than 65%, and you want the temperature between 60 and 85 degrees. 90 degrees is pushing it but doable. The key with higher temperatures is lower humidity because the combination of high heat and humidity will be a disastrous mess.
Q: Is there any benefit for spraying inside a garage versus outside?
A: The only thing spraying in a garage will help control is wind. Humidity and heat will still be an issue. Now if you have a climate controlled garage that is a different story altogether. If you want to spray where it is climate controlled (i.e. in your house) then you will need to build a spray booth to control fumes and overspray, but that is another topic. Spray painting in the garage is helpful but not required. As always if you are spraying in a shed or garage please ensure that you have proper ventilation. The chemicals in the spray paint inhibit your brain’s ability to use oxygen.
Q: I have heard about brush on primers? What is your experience with them? Can I use them in an airbrush? What brand of brush on primer do you recommend and why?
A: Brush on primers are great. They allow you to prime your figures regardless of atmospheric conditions. They can be pushed through an airbrush without worry and regard to atmospheric conditions. You can brush prime all your figures if you want, but it is amazingly time consuming– that is if you are not using your airbrush.
Reaper makes one of the best brush on primers out there, and it comes in black and white. I and others swear by Reaper Master Series Paint brush on primers. What it does is micro etch the surface of the figure to allow the primer to adhere to it better, and then it provides an excellent “tooth” that helps paint adhere to the primer, while still remaining smooth. You can get Reaper Master Series Primer in the
US from any store that orders from . You can also order it directly from Reaper. Good news is that they recently added some new currency functions to help facilitate international orders. Alliance
Q: Why should I use black primer?
A: The main reason for using black primer is to avoid lining a figure. Lining is where you paint a dark color where separate surfaces meet, e.g. where the end of a sleeve is and the arm/hand begins. It is always done between different colors, and looks awesome between armor plates. This is why on the prime and drybrush techniques black primer works great because you are saving yourself a bunch of steps. If you prime in black paint you can block paint but you end your color just short of where the colors meet and by doing that you avoid the need to line.
The higher level of this discussion involves paint and its translucency. Priming in darker/black tones will change the luminosity of a color, and thus make a color appear darker or deeper in tone. White will make colors appear very bright and almost candy like, which is good for some applications and horrible for others. Grey is the middle ground. It will make your colors look natural while avoiding the candy like look. The drawback to grey is that it can wash out the brightness of certain colors like yellow. Ultimately this is will come down to what you prefer. I tend to like grey or white, while using black for my Marines and Orks.
Something to consider is the new line of colored primers offered by Army Painter because the translucency issue is in operation here. Priming in a primary color (i.e. red, yellow or blue) will tip your entire palette towards those colors. What I mean by tipping your palette towards the color is that it will act like you put some of that base color in each and every color you paint. Also the compliment color to your primer will take on a grayish tone if painted over your colored primer.
Q: What is the best primer on the market?
A: This is largely experiential, but there are some primers that I have had better success with than others. I have already stated my preference for what brush on primer I like. I agree with many painters that Armoury Primer is problematic mainly because of how fiddly the paint is and the hoops you have to jump through to make it work. One of my favorites for competition painting is Tamiya Fine Surface Primer White. Its primary drawback is price per ounce but overall it is the best primer you can use in
because it seems pretty humidity resistant. GW and Army Painter Primers are both pretty good but they are also somewhat pricey. They are cheaper per ounce than Tamiya, but they don’t contain enough propellant in them to get out every last drop of paint. This propellant issue is a major reason why I don’t buy the GW primer. My all time favorite for mass army painting work is Duplicolor Sandable Grey Primer just because it is a champion in the heat and humidity, and it is $6 for a 12 ounce can. Now, if I am priming on the cheap Wal-Mart carries Krylon for $2.50 per 12 ounce can and it works fine, and is almost comparable to the Duplicolor. Texas
Q: Why should you prime?
A: Well the answer is simple. We use water based paint on a nonporous surface. What we are doing when we prime a figure is creating a surface for the paint to hold on to. Run-of-the-mill paint can do this but not to the level that a true primer can. In the long run a figure that has been primed will have a paint job that will hold up much longer especially to repeat handling like what you see with wargaming figures.
If you have any hobby questions you want answered on hobby subjects feel free to post them here or email me at psyberwolfe at yahoo dot com. Who knows maybe your question will spark another Q & A article?